Sunday, April 01, 2018

A Blessed Easter

Well, to those fellow-celebrants. (To the rest: happy Sunday).

Easter, in recent years, has become a bigger thing for me. Oh, I understood what it was about when I was a kid - we used to go to Sunrise Service, the years they had it (some years on the town Green, which was lovely, if extremely cold in Northeast Ohio in March or April).

I don't think I FULLY understood the whole Triduum; adults tended to keep that from us a little bit.

I suppose that's okay, as a child: to know "Yay! Jesus conquered death!" without realizing fully how He got there.

We also did Easter baskets and dyed eggs and a fancy meal (sometimes ham, sometimes lamb) for Easter. I liked the surprise of what was in the basket, I especially liked the years we got some small toy in addition to the candy, but - like Hallowe'en, once the novelty of having a lot of candy wore off, a lot of the stuff (esp. the jellybeans) hung around for a while and some years my mom just wound up throwing out the leftover candy.

And a memory about the dyed eggs: back in those days before people worried so hard about food poisoning, my parents used to take (under the guise of the Easter bunny) the eggs we dyed and hide them for my brother and me to find. And one year either they didn't count carefully before or after, but one egg was never found. (Well, we were often doing the hunt in a bit of a hurry before getting off to services). Anyway, a day or two later, the cat found the egg. (We didn't eat that one)

Most years there was also some kind of new outfit. I suspect the tradition of new clothes for Easter (which has kind of fallen by the wayside now that some buy clothes all the time) did have some kind of religious underpinning; the idea of "putting on new garments" (and it really wouldn't have been wasteful in an era when you got new clothes maybe once or twice a year - when I was a kid, mostly, it was new clothes at back-to-school, and maybe some as Christmas gifts, and some kind of new "church clothes" at Easter. I don't shop much for clothing as an adult so I do try to have something new to wear for Easter in the memory of that)

But anyway. This year Easter falls on April Fool's Day - which has never happened for me before - and I am bracing myself for someone online, who does not believe as I do, to mock and revel in the "irony" of it. And I will shrug resignedly.

I've said before that I dislike April Fool's Day. I think part of it is that in a lot of ways it's "celebrated," it excludes people - literally, cuts someone from the herd as being a "fool" when they fall for the joke, and that's why I don't like it. I like the gentler silliness where all can take part - like, on Ravelry, you can put a funny hat on your Ravatar. But you don't HAVE to, and you get to choose the hat. I like that kind of thing. Or the cute jokes that are so obviously jokes no one would fall for them.

But the thing is: in the era of "fake news" and the like, stories even slightly more believable than the Great Spaghetti Harvest are easy to fall far: the news has been so weird for so long that at times I've opined we've somehow fallen into the timeline scripted by The Onion.

But I don't like the prank-type jokes, because, as I said, it feels like the person who falls for it (and it often is me, because I tend to get so deep into my own head that I'm not paying attention, and I also tend to take what people say at face value and literally) is being dragged out into a spotlight and held up as an Example and laughed at. And it makes the person look undignified, which is something I hate.

But anyway. I've been thinking about things this Triduum. I said earlier that as a kid I didn't fully understand the horrors of Maundy Thursday night and of Good Friday, and that's true. All of the worst things someone could experience happened to Christ - he was betrayed by a friend, other friends scattered rather than risk being tarred with the same brush, being made a mockery of, and finally, being killed - and knowing death was coming - in an incredibly brutal way.  One year at a Good Friday service someone read aloud a physiologist's recreation of what a crucifixion would be like and....yeah, it's terrible.

But the other thing I am thinking of is the idea of servant leadership. The homily on Maundy Thursday (before the actual Tenebraes service) focused heavily on Christ's washing of his disciples' feet, and the point that the greatest of all chose to serve all....and again it strikes me of how different, how better, the world would be if people strove to do that sort of thing.

One of the things that distresses me about the world is that it seems to me, all too often people who have some kind of power, they then turn that power to either get more power for themselves (or keep the flow of perks coming), or to use it to "humiliate" others (the whole "dance monkey dance" thing some in some bureaucracies do when someone comes to them needing them to help with red tape or similar). And I find that kind of distasteful, and it's why I say I don't want power.

(Not everyone is like that. My chair has some power, but she seems to only use that power for good, for example, to be a buffer between the harsher parts of the administration and us)

But anyway - the idea of servant leadership. I don't have MUCH power, and I'm far from perfect from using it well, but yes: at my best, I can do that. I can call an office on campus and ask someone there, because I am a professor and advisor, to hurry along the elimination of some piece of red tape a student should not have to deal with (and it's satisfying to be able to do that: to call up an office and say "Maybe you can help me out here..." and find out that yeah, they could have avoided that hold from the student's account two days ago, but no one just had the will to...) And even in less-satisfying circumstances: staying a little late or coming in a little early to tutor a student. You do these things (and also things like pushing myself to get grading done fast, because I know people like to know) because it's part of your job....and yet, sometimes you learn about other people in your same job who DON'T do that. (I've had more than my share of students who transferred here from a particular other school, who were shocked to learn I was willing to give them tutoring during office hours, because the instructors at their old school wouldn't).

And it's true: that kind of thing is tiring and a lot of the time I get frustrated by it and a lot of times I don't want to do it - but I do, because it's how I was taught and how I was raised.

But again: if people with REAL power - whether college administrators, or city leaders, or legislators or CEOs - more commonly stopped and said "What can I do to make things better for everyone?" even if it maybe means they put themselves out a little bit, the world would be a better and a nicer place, I think.

Another thought on servant leadership, and also tangentially on April Fool's Day: 1 Corinthians 1:27: "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."

I don't think "foolish" there so much means "someone who wants to spend today making others feel bad for falling for pranks" and more "someone who doesn't exclusively look out for their own interests," perhaps. And "wise" - I am sure the sort of false worldly-wisdom is meant there, not the Solomonaic type of wisdom. I have known my share of people who puffed themselves up as being "very wise" in the worldly sort of way - and again, it's a sort of exclusivity and a sort of disempowering of the other person, by making them look stupid - and yes, those people who act that way should feel shamed. (Though many of them do not). And the sort of person who is unwilling to admit "I don't know" or to say "but I could be wrong" but doubles down on what they think they know....

Perhaps "foolish" there is more along the lines of seeming a bit vulnerable, of not being too worldly, of being willing to accept on faith things that the "wise" say is impossible. I don't know. I do know that some of the things I find distasteful about our modern world are things like snark and call-outs and the sort of "I'm better than you because" attitudes that seem to me to be a sort of false wisdom. It's like we're all perpetual adolescents; afraid that we might look "uncool" in front of our friends, we don't allow ourselves to accept anything or enjoy anything unironically - and it's making us sad and unable to communicate in any kind of deep or meaningful way.

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